This was my ninth year attending Comic-Con. For the first time, I did not bring any cosplay. No hall cosplay (although I’ve mostly ended that for Comic-Con, it’s too uncomfortable and too personally unrewarding to strap myself into a costume, do full makeup and wig in order to stand in line and sit in dark rooms for 10+ hours) and no masquerade (although we’ll be back next year!). However, that is not to say I didn’t try to look cute.
I put together a vaguely Batgirl-inspired outfit, consisting of my favorite Batjew t-shirt, a black quasi-biker jacket (it looks really cute unzipped), the pleated yellow skirt and purple tights from my Athena Cykes costume, and black Doc Martens with yellow laces. I wore it on Friday at the con, and although I wasn’t technically in costume, I still had a couple people ask for photos (I assume mostly because of the Batjew logo, everybody loves it). I doubt I’ll ever see any of them, though. Sifting through the Comic-Con tags on Flickr for something small and specific is asking for a migraine.
Wednesday night was preview night. Beforehand, Barbara Jo and I trekked to the nearest supermarket to pick up provisions and get dinner. One of the places we like to hit up every year is Operacaffe, an Italian restaurant across from the Balboa Theatre.
My favorite dish to get there is the Penne Speperina (sausage, mascarpone, and mint). It’s so good, and the mint is a perfect “oh wow, that’s interesting!” note. In past years, I have been disappointed by Operacaffe’s bread, but they’ve upgraded to a foccaccia which is so much better (I mean, still not fantastic, but leaps and bounds ahead of what it was). Barbara Jo accused me of flirting with the waiter by trying out my terrible Italian, and we were friendly with a couple dining next to us who worked as talent coordinators for the street advertising groups for various media companies for the convention week.
And then we went to preview night! Thankfully this year we got tickets. Last year, not so much (which SUCKED because we had to make the trek out to Hotel Circle to get our badges—thank heavens this year we could just pick them up at the con center). Here are some of the things I took note of on the exhibit hall floor. (I probably should have put them in a gallery, but I didn’t, so now you have to scroll. Enjoy.)
Because Comic-Con has grown into such a behemoth, there are curious rules about line formation. After the exhibit hall, Barbara Jo went to go sit in the Thursday line for Hall H so she could get into the Doctor Who panel. It’s a whole big weird thing. (Also: it’s a whole big GROSS thing.)
Normally I would have been at her side—I LOVE DOCTOR WHO—but the way the panels were scheduled on Thursday was so frustrating. The Doctor Who panel was at 2:15pm in Hall H, and the Sherlock panel was at 3:45pm in Ballroom 20. These are two of the most notorious lines at SDCC, and it would have been impossible to attend both panels. My justification for choosing Sherlock over Doctor Who came down to one man: Rupert Graves. I’m a total fangirl (we’re called Gravesdiggers, in case you wondered). And while I really, really like Peter Capaldi, I’m sure he’ll be coming back to SDCC in future years. That seems less likely for Rupert. So I eschewed Doctor Who in favor of Sherlock.
Thursday dawned bright and early and everyone in my hotel room was out with the sun. I was the last to leave. The only thing on my docket for the day was Sherlock (I had to leave behind Gravity Falls as well, the shame), so I figured I’d get in line at a reasonable hour for Ballroom 20, probably miss the first two panels, but get in the room with plenty of time to be there for Sherlock. I needn’t have worried. I got in for the first panel. I was in that room a very, very long time that day.
The first panel of the day was a conversation with William Shatner about David Goodman’s new book, The Autobiography of James T. Kirk. Shatner read out selections of the book, and he and Goodman waxed philosophical about the character of Kirk and his influence today and in the fictional future. I felt like Shatner was trying occasionally to be as weird as Avery Brooks had been a few years ago in their The Captains panel, when he went off on jazz improv (the sound is seriously awful in this video, but Shat’s setup starts at 14:35 here and Brooks starts in at 18:05 here—seriously, you could have heard a pin drop in the room during that speech).
These are some very pretty people who clearly know they are on a dull show. After the Shatner panel came a 3.5 hour block of CBS shows. It was excruciating. Yes, thrill to the wonders of Extant, Zoo, Scorpion, Limitless, and Under the Dome. One thing that I think backfired on CBS is that by scheduling their stuff as one giant chunk, people could get bathroom passes and just jet off for three hours. If they had scheduled them as five forty-minute panels, it would have meant more people would have stayed in the room. During that time, I might have actually been able to make it into the Doctor Who panel, come to think of it. And then had fifteen minutes to hustle back to B20. Oh well, something to think about for next year. Anyway. These particular CBS shows: ugh. Why not bring Elementary? Have a Sherlock Holmes-y block! That would have been fun! And the only new show I’m even sort of looking forward to from them, Supergirl, was put with the DCTV stuff on Saturday night (which makes sense, but GOD I was bored).
Finally! The Sherlock panel! After only seven or so hours of (combined) line-standing and seat-sitting! Was it worth it? Yes, but with hindsight being 20-20 and all that, I could have structured my day a bit better. It’s so hard to know at Comic-Con, and you don’t want to miss something you REALLY want to see, so you end up sacrificing unnecessary time occasionally in order to see That One Thing. Rupert was lovely, Sue was lovely, and Moffat was at his usual levels of Moffat-y-ness. My two favorite takeaways from the panel: Moffat saying that Sherlock and John were probably a bit resentful of Lestrade because he’s so handsome (TRUTH) and Graves describing the hug at the beginning of series 3 as Lestrade being kidnapped or hijacked by his emotions (at which point I was basically doing this). And sure yeah we got to see that tiny bit of the Victorian episode, but Lestrade wasn’t in it so WHATEVER, plus they put it on YouTube like the second the panel was over so who even cares about exclusivity anymore?
After Sherlock I met up with Barbara Jo and we headed off to go see Rifftrax Live: Sharknado 2. I hadn’t seen the first movie, but I was assured it really, really didn’t matter. The creator, a higher-up from Rifftrax, and “star” Ian Ziering were there in person to introduce the movie and answer questions before the show started. Ian Ziering was there additionally for Barbara Jo to bruise my arm by punching it excitedly when he walked past us in the theatre lobby. This was a pretty sparsely attended event, but we had a laugh.
Afterwards, it was back to the hotel—well, the hotel bar, anyway. We have been lucky enough for the past seven years to get booked into the Hilton Bayfront San Diego, which is THE BEST HOTEL FOR COMIC-CON. You’re at the right end of the convention center for all the lines, and it means that if you and your friends are pulling an all-nighter, shifts are easy to hand off so everyone can get some sleep. Also, it has the Fox Sports Grill. Barbara Jo and I LOVE the Fox Sports Grill. For the four days we at in San Diego, we will go there… probably six times. For a hotel bar/restaurant, it is reasonably priced, there are generally a couple free seats at the bar, and the bartenders during SDCC are the best. They totally get into the spirit of the con, dressing up as superheroes. Julie and Ben, we love you!
Friday was the day I dressed up in my Batgirl-ish outfit. This morning was dedicated to Cartoon Network shows: Regular Show, Adventure Time, and Steven Universe. (Also Uncle Grandpa, but ugh.) I made the fatal error of wearing eyeliner and mascara to a Rebecca Sugar panel. Seriously, that lady can make me cry. Whether it was singing a song with Olivia Olson (voice of Marceline on Adventure Time), talking about her brother (her inspiration for Steven), or that extended opening for the show, I was trying and failing to hold it together. I think I read that the opening will be available online soon? That might’ve just been a rumor, but man, I can’t wait to see it again. (Yeah, there’s phone footage up on YouTube [FOR SHAME] but I want to see it in pristine condition.)
I’d like to give a shoutout to whoever was on the video board for these panels, because they did possibly the best job I’ve seen. There was a kid in the front row who had great reaction shots, and they cut to him a bunch. Also, there was a fan questioner during the first hour who was the spitting image of the moderator, SNL’s Bobby Moynihan, and the cuts between him and the fan were really quite excellent. Bravo, whoever you were.
I’d also like to ding Cartoon Network for scheduling these panels in this fashion. Last year, the shows got their own time to themselves. This year, they were paired up: Uncle Grandpa and Regular Show, Adventure Time and Steven Universe. Now while this may have saved time overall, it was pretty annoying. The cast for Adventure Time, ALTHOUGH I LIKE THEM VERY MUCH, were way too boisterous to be sitting on a panel with the Steven Universe folks. They kept going for a laugh from the audience during the quieter moments (I’m thinking of Jeremy Shada during the Sugar-Olson duet). And I’m sure the AT people would have liked to have received more questions from the audience, but they were ALL for Rebecca Sugar—deservedly, in my opinion, that show is incredible and thought-provoking. But I think it would have served both shows better to split them up.
After those panels, I met up with my old high school buddy Kenny Byerly, world-famous writer for such shows as Robot and Monster, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero, and the upcoming Bordertown. He was here today for the Penn Zero panel, but before that we had some lunch and visited the Peanuts exhibit over in the PetCo parking lot. It was a giant inflated replica of Snoopy’s doghouse, which had the unfortunate tendency to make the photos taken inside it look like they were from some horror movie parody of Peanuts.
Kenny had been hoping to get a hat for his daughter, but unfortunately they were only handing out posters that afternoon.
Afterwards, we headed back inside the convention center to go to the Penn Zero panel (which was shared with Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, another very cute cartoon on Disney XD). And I met his agent, who I think believes I am stalking Noelle Stevenson due to my vast knowledge of her current career (I remember things I read on Tumblr!). It took me until just now that I recognized Tania Gunadi, the voice of Sashi on Penn Zero, from Enlisted (RIP). Thomas Middleditch I recognized from Silicon Valley, a show that hits just a little close to home for me to find funny. (It’s too real, man.)
After the DisneyXD panels, I had to hurry over to join Barbara Jo in line for Room 6A. We were planning on seeing the Ash Vs. Evil Dead panel later that night, and Barbara Jo was worried about how full the line was getting. I had a brief hope about us getting into the Vikings panel as well, but that was completely full up. (Vikings sort of lost me this season, so it had been struck off my MUST SEE panel list. Athelstan ;_;) We made it in for both Sense8 and Ash. The Sense8 panel was interesting because it was just J. Michael Straczynski talking for an hour, no actors or anything. I guess Netflix didn’t pony up the big bucks to bring the show to SDCC. But JMS being on his own was something that I think would benefit a lot of panels, actually. When the actors are there, you get a lot of stupid questions directed to them (I swear, at the Extant panel, someone essentially asked Halle Berry and Jeffrey Dean Morgan what it was like being hot. See also every single goddamn Supernatural panel I’ve had the misfortune to sit through.) However, with just the showrunner there, you get some pretty probing questions about the show and its themes or whatever (this is of course assuming the show is reasonably deep). Anyway, JMS was an excellent presenter, and both Barbara Jo and I are probably going to give it a shot.
Holy cow. When Lucy Lawless showed up in the trailer my heart had a little spasm, because one of my friends had tweeted a picture of her and Bruce Campbell at the con. I thought she was here for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or a Xena/BSG/Spartacus fandom panel or something. When she stepped out on stage, oh, my little girlish heart was doing cartwheels. I’m annoyed that this is going to be on Starz, because that means I have to find some way to watch Starz. Bruce Campbell was a little skeezy during the panel towards a female Ash cosplayer, but all in all it was very fun, and I am looking forward to the show. Afterwards Barbara Jo stuck around for the Sharknado 3 panel, but I was exhausted and ran away to the bar, where she later joined me.
(okay, this post is getting way too long, the text editor on WordPress has scrolled oddly and I can’t see what I’m writing anymore, I have to switch to the visual editor)
No masquerade on Saturday! Whatever shall I do with my time? Oh, I think I’ll waste the entire day again in Ballroom 20 and then go to some *gasp* actual comics panels! So much like Thursday, I didn’t really need to spend that much time in Ballroom 20. I sat through Once Upon a Time, TV Guide Fan Favorites, The Simpsons, the Seth MacFarlane Animation block, Grimm, and Outlander, in order to see the Hannibal panel. I will say that Yvette Nicole Brown was an excellent moderator of the Once Upon a Time panel, as well as incredibly charming during the TV Guide Fan Favorites panel. I enjoyed seeing Guillermo del Toro and his boundless enthusiasm for absolutely everything during the The Simpsons panel. But I fell asleep during the Seth MacFarlane panels, and honestly the highlights of the other panels was leaving for the loo. Because it was on one of these trips that I caught this cosplayer:
WHAT A FANTASTIC THE BRIG COSPLAYER. Oh man, seeing this guy made my day. I adore Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. One of my favorite classic Doctor Who characters, and this dude nailed it.
I only took one other cosplayer photo, and this guy was in line with me. He was a pretty excellent Arrow:
(and now my div align tags aren’t working anymore jeez)
And then it was time for the Hannibal Pannibal (as created Bryan Fuller deemed it)!
Here we see the panel showing off the flower crowns that Hannibal has become the fandom most associated with, for whatever reason (“to demonstrate the fertility of our fans’ imaginations,” as Fuller attempted to explain in response to Armitage and Dancy’s confusion.) My hope was that during the panel Fuller would announce that somehow he had managed to hide the news and that Hannibal had been rescued by some other network or streaming service! But no. It’s still dead. THANKS NBC. You had this weird, wonderful, unique show—and sure, also unquestionably allergic to ratings—and you were getting ridiculously beautiful cinematography and world-class actors for BASICALLY FREE ($185K per episode because Gaumont footed the big bills) and you CANCELED IT and honestly why am I expecting NBC to do anything that could actually raise it from being the laughingstock of the television world these days sorry I’m just bitter about the whole thing. But you know who’s really handsome? Richard Armitage! I bet that fact will be difficult to reconcile during the next arc of Hannibal.
After Hannibal, I went to the exhibit hall to make some purchases and get a couple books signed, talk to a couple folks, killing time before the comics panels I wanted to go to—Action Lab Comics and Magnetic Press.
Action Lab publishes Princeless, a wonderful book about a princess defying her destiny to be shut up in a tower and forced to marry the first prince who comes along and rescues her. She escapes on the back of a dragon (who is supposed to be the one keeping her terrorized in the tower), and along with the help of a half-dwarven blacksmith, she reinvents herself into a knight and sets out to rescue her sisters from their dull fates. It’s a really good book with a lot of humor and great art. It’s gotten reprinted a few times in nicer and nicer volumes (I have repurchased once, I may do it again).
Magnetic Press is a fairly new publisher (they began in 2013, I believe), but they put out really, really high quality books. Interesting formats, nice paper, gorgeous slipcases and extras. They have licensed a number of French comics that intrigue me. Many years ago, when I was dabbling in the less savory comics corners of the internet, I learned of Sky Doll, a fantasy/sci-fi epic with art that looked like a futuristic Walt Disney. It was gorgeous and I needed it and it was unavailable in the U.S. I downloaded some scanlations and rejoiced when Marvel brought over Sky Doll as part of its (now defunct) Soleil imprint. After they put out the first three volumes, they moved into side stories, non-canon but in the same universe, illustrated by a number of different artists. One of these artists was Bengal, and I fell hardcore for his art. I attempted to find anything I could that he had done, and to my dismay, there wasn’t much available in the States—one story in a collected volume (Flight) and that was it. Long story short, I found some scans, found some folks to translate for me, found Stuart Ng Books, and bought a LOT of comics I couldn’t actually read. And then last year I saw an announcement in Publisher’s Weekly that a new company, Magnetic Press, was translating and publishing Bengal’s works! There may have been plotzing involved, I cannot say.
All of that is to say that I was really excited for the Magnetic Press panel because of the French talent they had brought over for the convention. And then I went to the panel and it was sort of monopolized by a member of Blink-182 who had written a comic. :/
I had thought about dropping by Hall H at the end of the evening to catch the last half of the DC TV mega-panel, but about halfway through the Magnetic Press presentation I was attacked by my stomach, so I ditched that idea and went off to get food and beer.
So usually Sunday is Doctor Who day, but with the Thursday scheduling, that was no longer the case. I was afraid we had bought later-in-the-day plane tickets for no reason, but then noticed that Duff Goldman (the Ace of Cakes guy) was holding a panel about geek cakes. Really, what could be more perfect for Barbara Jo? (Only if they had asked her to be on the panel with him, I suppose.) There was a small problem locating the meeting room—a tiny little room in the bowels of the convention center that NO ONE knew how to find, I swear we had to ask about four different staffers. And it’s a good thing we arrived when we did, the organizers entirely underestimated the number of folks interested in cakery. The line was massive. The room held maybe 100, 115 people? They actually allowed us to violate fire code stuff and line the walls and back of the room for standing room. Barbara Jo and I got seats, thankfully.
That being said, I thought it could have been organized better. Basically what happened was Duff ran through a slideshow of his geek cakes, describing them and telling a few stories, and then took audience questions. I would have liked to have heard more about the particular in and outs of making certain pieces, or how to choose one particular sweet medium over another for making various pieces (fondant vs. gum paste vs. marzipan vs. modeling chocolate or whatever). I’m probably just being picky, though.
And then we did some more shopping and flew back. I’ll do another post eventually about what I bought and the free swag I obtained, but this is already too long and taken forever to write.